Chapter 13 : Act 11 – … We are destiny
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"Destiny is real and she's not mild-mannered. She will come around and hit you in the face and knock you over and before you know what hit you, you're naked - stripped of everything you thought you knew and everything you thought you didn't know - and there you are: A bloody nose, bruises all over you, and naked. And it's the most beautiful thing" C. JoyBell
The heaviness of sleep was quick to bleed out of Alicia that morning – her neck was sore as hell. The Potters’ couches were comfortable to sit your ass on, but they weren’t made to be slept on apparently.
She groaned as she turned over and opened her eyes.
The first thing she looked for was Anya and when she saw her friend’s shape under the covers of the bed, Alicia took a breath of relief. She had been dreading that Anya’s impulsive ass would wake up in the middle of the night and take off – which in the end was why she chose to sleep here with her…
Actually, Alicia was a bit disappointed in herself for not being able to guess her friend’s reaction, but this time she was happy to be wrong. It would really have been a mess to have to… Alicia’s sharp intake of breath echoed in the empty room when a frightening thought crossed her mind. She scrambled off the couch with a speed she didn’t know she was capable of and neared the bed. Slowly, half dreading what she would find, she peeked under the covers…
“Oh, you bitch!”
Because the only thing sleeping in Anya’s bed was her pillow.
God dam hot-blooded idiot with a motherfucking grunge!
Alicia practically ripped her pajamas off and hauled her jeans and T-shirt on. She used to think that this particular speed of dressing herself was reserved only for mornings when she was terribly late for Transfiguration; but apparently, it was also commendable in the occasions when her incredibly idiotic best friend went missing.
“I am going to kill you myself!” Alicia hissed though her teeth, as if Anya could hear her.
She sprinted out of the door before she even had a clear idea of where she was going.
Oh, she knew where she was going to start looking for Anya, but…but what if Bellatrix had found her?
Alicia groaned and felt a wave of strong annoyance at her friend. How could Anya have been so unbelievably stupid? So childish and fucking selfish! Alicia growled as her anger built, but even though she was fucking pissed at Anya for showing this much stupidity in such a serious situation, her heart was beating double paced not because of anger, but worry.
Still, knowing that deep down she was only worried did not stop Alicia from wanting beat some sense into her friend.
Just as Alicia was about to sprint into the living room, hoping to find either Mrs. Potter or Anya’s mum, she practically slammed into James who was just coming from there.
“Wow… easy there.” He said with an effortless smile.
Alicia was so relieved to see him that her heart skipped a beat. “James! Anya’s not in her room!”
She didn’t know what reaction she had been expecting but as she watched James’ face remain calm and collected, Alicia knew she was missing a piece of the situation.
“I know, Sirius told me.” James said calmly and Alicia’s felt her eyes widen even more.
She frowned. “What do you mean, Sirius told you? How did he know?”
“He kept an eye on her last night, to make sure she’d be fine.” James leaned against the doorframe, crossing his arms as a small smile appeared on his lips. “ You gotta admit, she is either really brave or really stupid for taking off like that in the middle of the night.”
Alicia heard a scoff behind her and when she turned she saw Sirius Black coming down the stairs in ripped jeans and faded red T-shirt.
“I’m leaning towards stupid on this one.” Sirius said lightly as he stopped in front of them. “Morning, Mackenzie. Sleep well?”
His hair was still wet, no doubt from the shower he had just taken… and looking at him reminded Alicia of how badly she wanted a long bath herself.
Alicia narrowed her eyes at him. “Watch your mouth, Black. And no, for your information, I did not sleep well at all.”
Sirius shrugged indifferently. “Your own fault for taking the couch. I told you she would slip out right under your nose.”
Had Sirius Black said that to her three days ago, Alicia would have gone full on nuclear on his ass, but now, everything had changed. After she had been left on James’ doorstep yesterday, her opinion of those boys – especially Black – had shifted by 180 degrees. Alicia was the first to admit that she had always considered Black an insensitive, selfish, sometimes sadistic asshole, whose middle name was surely ‘motherfucker’. But happening upon those boys bleeding from a duel with none other than Bellatrix Black put everything that had happened before that, into a different perspective.
“Whatever. Where is she anyway?” Alicia asked simply, keeping her tone neutral.
“Well, she seemed to take to heart my advice not to involve anyone in her mess, so she slept in an unused classroom or something, in that school of hers…”
Sirius watched McKenzie huff and roll her eyes. He didn’t mention that the crazy chick had ran all the way to that school only in a pair of socks, and had cried the whole time, stopping only when she had finally gone to sleep. Even then, her breathing had been uneasy. He had tried to ignore that, feeling very uneasy that he had even witnessed the event. He wanted nothing to do with girls’ tears in any circumstance.
He had been impressed by her nerve really: the distance had to be at least four miles but she had been fast, not stopped once. If he hadn’t been on a broom, he wouldn’t have been able to keep up with her on the pace she had set.
Alicia looked around to make sure they were alone and then lowered her voice for her next question. “Does Mrs. Rain know that Anya…”
Black shrugged in his usual laid back manner, even though his eyes were as sharp and attentive as ever. “I saw no reason to mention it, but she will know eventually. Moody was fucking pissed that she’d had slipped away without a guard.” He added with a little chuckle.
“No shit Sherlock.” Alicia murmured. “I’ll be going now. Thanks for the hospitality James, that was really nice of you.”
James smiled good naturally to her. “Don’t mention it.”
“And you, thanks for…” Alicia pointed at her forehead as she looked at Black, who nodded his response, his characteristic smirk in place. But this time, Alicia didn’t take it as arrogance. Oh well, at least she tried not to be pissed at him for it.
“Yeah. Ok then, see ya when I see ya.”
“Hey Alicia…” Alicia stopped and turned when she heard James’ voice calling at her. “Try to convince you friend to stay here for a while.”
Alicia raised one of her eyebrows. “Excuse me?”
“My parents own this building and the one next door, which is almost empty and shadowed with every protective spell in the book. She can stay in whichever room she likes.”
Alicia couldn’t help a snort. Anya was a quiet and withdrawn kind of person, but she had a mean proud streak in her. Alicia knew that her friend would rather sleep on the street before she accepted someone’s pity.
“She’ll never agree to that.” Alicia confirmed, confident that she was dead right.
“Figures.” Black muttered and made his way to the dining room without so much as a glance backwards. James however was more decent.
“Just tell her about the offer, ok.”
Alicia shrugged. Id didn’t cost her anything to mention it. However…
“Are your parents ok with that? With taking a stranger into their home I mean.” Alicia asked, looking at James carefully in the eye. She was a little surprised when she saw one corner of his lips curve in a faint smile.
“This is not the first time something like this has happened. And your friend won’t be the only one in that building.”
There were a few moment of stretched silence, during which Alicia found it a little hard to breathe. James’ words had brought back a lot of what she had learned yesterday and suddenly, it was too much to bear…
Alicia could hardly conceive of it. She had no reference, nothing to compare it to. No way to easily wrap her brain around it. Choosing not to believe it was so much simpler than trying to accept the reality of all the little things that were kept under the shiny surface. But there was no denying the evidence: the evicted people, the violence, the body count that only kept growing. This thing was bound to explode and by the looks of it, it would be sooner rather than later.
“This is real, isn’t it?” Alicia whispered, her voice sounding a little too breathy for her liking, but she couldn’t help it.
She was scared.
James swallowed before answering, his eyes quiet and remotely sad, just as troubled as Alicia felt.
“Yeah.” he answered quietly.
“I don’t understand any of it.” Alicia admitted for the first time. It all seemed so big and for the first time Alicia was afraid of being swallowed by something that was painfully beyond her reach, out of her control. It was like looking the storm in the eye and having no place to hide.
It was terrifying…
“Join the club.” James said a little bitterly and Alicia couldn’t help a relieved chuckle. At least she wasn’t alone in this.
As quickly as the insecurity had come, she shook it off, as if it was a speck of dust on her shoulder. “See you later James.”
And she was out the door and into the morning sun.
Alicia looked around the busy corridor of the Academy, trying to catch a glimpse of Anya's dark hair. Strangely enough – or not so strangely, depending on how one chose to look at it – even though the corridors were full with scattering students, Alicia didn’t bump into anyone. People simply parted to get out of her way. It probably had something to do with the ‘bloody murder’ look that was all over her face and the snarl that kept creeping back in her expression.
In that moment she hated everything about this place, how every single dancer in there was like a photocopy of the next. They all looked the same damn it: same hairstyle, same clothes. Thank god they weren’t color coordinated this time, or Alicia would have started screaming out of frustration.
Looking for Anya here was like searching for a needle in a haystack. How the fuck did Moody keep track of her all day?
I hate this shit… where is the bitch?
Right underneath the window, there was one girl in a white T-shirt and gray shorts, hair pulled back tightly in a bun at the top of her head. She was stretching, long legs straightened out in front of her and her head between them, her torso almost touching the floor. There was a huge, colorful cop of takeaway coffee to her left. Black, no doubt – just as bitter as Anya herself could be.
At the sight of her, Alicia felt her spine tense a little, as he tried to process the view.
Anya looked bloody awful!
She was pale as death, almost leaning towards grayish tones. Her eyes were sunken in, dark circles around them, her lips colorless and chipped. At the sight of her friend looking so worse for wear, all the irritation that had been building up for almost one hour, bleed out of Alicia in a moment.
Alicia strode over and say down, tapping Anya in the foot to get a reaction. There was a hint of alarm in her friend’s eyes when she opened them, but when she saw who it was, Anya relaxed and even smiled a little.
“Sorry about the sneak-out.” Anya said softly, and Alicia had to admit that she hadn’t expected an apology like that, so simply given. In the wake of that apology, Alicia completely forgot what she had been about to say. Looking at Anya now, face to face made everything more difficult, as if the words had jumbled and lost their meaning.
Alicia didn’t know how to do this, how to speak to a person that seemed like would crumble at the slightest breeze. Right now, Anya looked more fragile than Alicia had ever seen her, and the sight freaked Ali out a bit.
“Were you camping out in my room to keep an eye on me?” Anya asked with a small smile and Alicia rolled her eyes.
“Didn’t do me any good, did it? Don’t you think it a little predictable to be here right now?”
Anya only shrugged. “I’ve never missed a class in my life. No reason to change that now.”
She was talking as if this was everyday conversation, but to Alicia’s ears is sounded beyond forced. This was what having a twilight-zone moment felt like…
“What?” Anya asked, tilting her head a little to the right.
This time it was Alicia’s turn to blink in amazement. What the hell? Was Anya trying to pretend that none of that stuff that had happened yesterday had actually happened? The irritation that had died out a few moments ago, came back in full force. This was exactly why being friend with Anya was so fucking frustrating. She was always so far away, so unreachable on a basic human level that sometimes it was hard to believe she ever felt anything at all.
But Alicia knew for a fact that was not true. She had watched her friend come undone over and over again in just the last 24 hours. So if Anya expected Alicia to pretend as if that had not happened, she was going to be sorely disappointed.
“What? You’re ‘what’-ing me? Are you serious? You…” Alicia stopped her tirade when Anya’s eyes widened and looked around, trying to signal her friend to keep it down. Alicia took one deep breath and readjusted her volume to a barely distinguishable whisper.
“… you ran away in the middle of the night! I mean, I know you’re not the sharpest tool in the shed, but seriously, how daft can you get? Which part of ‘there’s a demented person out there gunning for you scalp’ didn’t you understand?”
Alicia saw Anya sigh and look down, before she answered.
“I got everything down quite accurately I think. Which is why I’m here instead of being where my mother wants me to be.”
Someone who didn’t know Anya very well would say that her tone was calm and collected, but Alicia wasn’t one to be fooled that easily. There was the kind of emotion swimming in Anya’s wide eyes that spoke volumes about what was really going on inside her head and how hard Anya was trying not to let it show, not to let it run her over.
That was the only thing that kept Alicia from slapping her friend silly.
Alicia edged closer and took hold of Anya’s wrist gently, succeeding in making her friend look into her eyes and see the seriousness written all over Ali’s face like a tattoo. This was not some joke and Alicia wasn’t fucking around; she needed Anya to understand that.
“Do you have any idea what you’re in the middle of right now?”
There was a flicker of some intense undefined emotion on Anya’s eyes, but it was quickly quieted down by her iron will.
“I know exactly what I’m in the middle of.” Anya insisted. The look on her face when she said that caught Alicia by surprise. It was the kind of sternness that seemed a hundred years old…
“I said I was going away and I don’t think I negotiated on the when and where.”
Alicia opened her mouth, surely to say something true and equally unhelpful, but Anya interrupted.
“No Alicia. Just don’t ok, please.” And this time the sternness was gone and it was replaced by such a deep hurt that it made Alicia feel utterly helpless and useless. How could she help someone that seemed to utterly inconsolable, that was so proud even when she was in pain.
“I know that it looks like I’m being unreasonable, but I know what I’m doing.”
“Anya, I’m not going to pretend that I know what it feels like to be you right now…” Alicia locked her eyes with her friend and held on. Anya had always had a very intuitive intelligence and Alicia was counting on that, counting on Anya grasping what she was talking about without having to spell it out. “But you have to realize that this is a very dangerous situation and even though you didn’t get yourself in it, you need to adjust. You can’t be running around unprotected.”
Anya sardonically raised both eyebrows at her friend.
“You really think my mother is going to have them drop the protective detail just because we had a fight?” Anya asked; but going from the acidic look in her friend’s eyes, Alicia knew Anya wasn’t really fishing for an answer.
“She won’t.” Anya added bitterly. The smile on her lips felt toxic. “My mother was never any good at losing; she doesn’t know how to take no for an answer.”
“That’s your resentment talking. You know very well that the reason she’s protecting you is because she doesn’t want her daughter to get hurt.” Alicia said evenly, without too much emotion because she didn’t want to trigger any extreme reaction.
Anya smiled, but it didn’t reach her eyes. “I know.” She said softly. “I know that she loves me, of course she does. Unfortunately for me, that doesn’t change anything.”
And there was such sadness laced in that statement that for a moment Alicia felt lost for words. What could you say to something like that?
“I can’t do anything about anything really, I’m just going to take it until summer is over. I think I’ll take one of the scholarships and leave the country altogether after I finish here.”
Alicia looked at her friend in surprise, not believing her ears for a second.
Her surprise and incredulity seemed to amuse Anya.
“You heard me. I’ve always wanted to dance at the Vaganova Academy. Sasha studied there.” A smile crept up on Anya’s lips and this time it was sincere. “So did my father. He graduated from Vaganova at 17, danced with the Kirov Ballet for a few years and then moved to Moscow, as a soloist for the Bolshoi Theatre.”
Alicia swallowed with difficulty. “I never knew that…” She whispered and Anya shrugged, her smile widening. “So your dad went to regular school?”
Anya’s chuckle caught Alicia by surprise. It contrasted so sharply with the fathomless sadness in Anya’s eyes.
“Of course he did, he was a muggle.” Anya said with a lighter spirit than Alicia had heard her talk all day. The usually lively brown of her irises had dulled, as if fogged up but when Anya spoke of her father, her countenance brightened, her eyes sparkled if only a little.
Alicia felt her eyes widen and her lips part in surprise.
For a second she didn’t know what to say, then a smile crept in on her lips, amazed at how much she didn’t know and how much she wanted to know.
“How did your mom and dad meet?” Alicia asked, leaning a little closer, her fascination clear in her voice. Anya’s smiled fell a little, but the glimmer in her eyes didn’t falter.
“His younger brother, uncle Vladimir, was a wizard. My mother worked with him or something, that that’s how she met my dad for the first time.”
Alicia couldn’t help the sigh. “Sounds so romantic and mysterious.”
“Adventurous… like everything my mother does.” Even though Anya didn’t sound bitter and the small light in her eyes had not gone out yet, there was a twinge of melancholy in her voice.
Alicia lightened her tone. “So your dad was a dancer as well. That means ballet is like, in your blood or something huh? That’s why you’re so good at it.”
Anya smiled up at her friend. “That’s one way to look at it I guess. Sasha knew my dad, they danced together at the Bolshoi.” Anya looked amused for the first time since Alicia had seen her. She chuckled as if she was remembering something funny.
“What?” Alicia asked, smiling as if Anya’s sudden good humour was contagious.
“I asked her once, if our dance style was in any way alike… and she said that we have in common great talent and even greater passion for what we do.” Anya looked up at her friend. “That was really sweet of her.”
Alicia frowned. “You don’t think she was honest?”
“No, I just think that, on that occasion Sasha could have said anything else, but she chose to say that, in those words… and it was sweet.”
“Which is a rarity for Sasha. Being sweet that is.”
Anya chuckled as she pulled her legs up and wrapped her arms around them, resting her chin on her knees.
“What about Hogwarts?” Alicia asked carefully. Anya only rolled her eyes.
“Ali, if it had been up to me, I would have never gone to Hogwarts in the first place. All I ever wanted was to dance; it was my mother who pushed it about the magical thing.”
That was something else Alicia had never known. Just as she realized that, Ali also realized just how very little she seemed to know Anya at all. Right now it seemed a stretch to call her a best friend: it was obvious that Ali didn’t even know the tip of the iceberg when I came to Anya!
“I always hated that school.” Anya suddenly said with such an intensity that Alicia was a bit startled. Then Anya looked up and the smile she offered was apologetic.
“No offense, you’ve always been a great friend, and made everything easier sometimes… but I never wanted to have anything to do with the magic world. Hogwarts was always the incarnation of every single thing I didn’t want but that I had to settle for anyway…”
“But why?” Alicia asked, unable to hold back any longer. Anya shrugged.
“I wanted to study ballet, go to regular school. But after my father died things got out of control…” Anya’s voice broke a little, but she was quick to recover. “She moved us out here for our safety - mostly for my safety, it’s pointless to deny that.” Anya added as if she though it only fair to tell the whole truth now that she was at it.
“But she never asked me, she didn’t even tell me until one day before. She pulled me out of the ballet school I had been following and I was so angry I ran away from home. It took her two days to find me.” A rueful smile appeared on Anya’s lips, but her eyes were glassy.
“Where did you go?” Alicia whispered, mesmerized by this story that she had never before heard. It was as if Anya’s armor had cracked somewhere and now her secrets were leaking all over the place. Alicia had to admit, it was fascinating. And deeply confusing as well, but Alicia didn’t want to taint this with too many questions. She had a feeling that if she started poking Anya would shut up entirely.
Anya smiled at her question. “I tried to get back home, back to my life.”
“Where was that?”
Anya’s eyes shined with something that was very much like amusement. “I never told you that did I? Well, you might as well know. I was born in Moscow, where I lived the first ten years of my life. My mother is half Russian as well: her dad was English, her mom was Russian.”
“So that makes you… ¾ Russian and ¼ English?” Alicia asked, glad to hear Anya chuckle at her words.
“I’d never thought of it that way, but yeah, I guess your math is right. Unless there is some unknown linage I don’t know of.”
Alicia gave a little whistle. “… You don’t look Russian.”
Anya actually laughed at that. “Oh, come on, not all Russians are blonde with blue eyes! My dad had green eyes and his hair was brown. Mine is almost black though – I take after my mother.” Anya’s voice suddenly lost its warmth, became clipped even.
“Not really. Your hair is dark brown.” Alicia said with a smirk. “And ramrod straight, not wavy like your mom’s.”
Anya looked up, a vaguely amused look in her eyes, an almost mischievous curve on her lips, but she dint say anything about Alicia’s blatant attempt to cheer her up. They both knew that whether Anya had her mother’s hair-color or not, that had nothing to do with anything… but at the moment that info was irrelevant.
“Do you speak Russian?” Alicia pushed, smiling.
“It's my mother-tongue, of course i do.” Anya answered instantly and there was the distinct signature of pride in her voice, in the way she straightened her shoulders a little more.
"You don't have an accent…" Alicia noted, making Anya roll her eyes.
"I've had a long time to lose it haven't I?"
"But you used to? You used to sound russian when you first came here?"
Anya needed help remembering those days. not because they were so far away, but because she had blocked out the better part of her two first years in the English soil.
"Yeah, kinda. My english was good, my mother made sure of it… but it was always foreign. Russian was my language, and once i got here, i clung to that. I didn't want to speak english at all… so i just…I..."
Anya's words died in her mouth. Well, she had stopped speaking… for months, she had not said five words. Everything had gone downhill from there. Therapy, doctors and specialists. A whole whirlwind of bad memories, of very sad memories that Anya couldn't voice just yet. She'd thought that she could but it was still too strange, as if she as talking about the deepest secret that somebody else had confided in her. She was betraying herself. She didn't feel bad about it… but it still felt strange. Impersonal.
That was what freaked her out.
"Anyway, I was so stubborn about not practicing english that once i was a first year at Hogwarts, my accent was so noticeable i felt self conscious… so i didn't speak at all unless i absolutely had to."
Alicia couldn’t help an awed chuckle. “Yeah that part i remember… Wow, it’s like I don’t know you at all! Why did you never tell me any of this stuff?”
That sobered up Anya fast. “It had to do with my mother… and the reason why we moved so far away. We practically shifted lives, became different people so that none of her mess could be traced back to her here in England; so you see, lying to people about our origin was kinda mandatory.”
Alicia remembered what Anya had said last night about her father, about his death being her mother’s fault… but Alicia would not have brought that up even if someone had been holding her at gunpoint.
But there was something else that Alicia wanted to know, a somewhat safer question she could ask.
“Why are you telling me now?”
Anya shrugged, trying to say with her body language that is was not important, even though the tension was making a little wrinkle appear between her eyebrows.
“It doesn’t matter anymore. Our secret is not going to be a secret for much longer.”
Alicia gulped. “How do you know?” she asked, whispering without even consciously meaning to.
There was the kind of depth in Anya’s eyes that Alicia didn’t know how to read. Was it sadness, fear, resentment, surrender? All those feelings were familiar but on Anya’s face, they were undecipherable. Alicia had simply never had to read so much in Anya before; her expressions had always been so subtle.
“I just know…” Anya answered softly.
“So… you’re like political refugees or something?” Alicia asked carefully.
“Something like that. I don’t want to get into details.” Anya scoffed and looked away, her expression bitter and hurt. “I’m not even supposed to know the details… Just trust me, you don’t want that kind of things in your head.” Anya murmured, her voice still hard enough to cut through glass. Alicia couldn’t agree more. It all sounded too ugly to spark any real curiosity in her. And if it hardened Anya so much to simply think back to it, it must be even worse.
“I get it.” Ali said quickly.
There were a few moments of silence during which Alicia decided that the topic needed urgent changing.
“So, Vaganova Academy huh… in St Petersburg.”
Anya’s eyes lit up for a moment.
“That’s right.” She said softly, as if that particular fact was significantly important, in a good way. It was not a coincidence she wanted to go to that particular academy. If Alicia had to guess, she would say it probably had to do with it being her father’s school and his hometown…
“You sure you are ready to leave England behind? It’s been your home for so long - and you’re just 17 you know.”
Anya snorted. “England was never ‘home’.”
She spit out the word as if it was a curse and Alicia was taken aback. But when Anya looked up to meet Ali’s eye, her look was soft and there was a small attempt at smiling on her lips.
“I’ve made good friends here, and I’m grateful for them - for you… But it was never home.”
And there was such a dead feeling behind those words, so much those simple words threatened to uncover that Alicia hurried into changing the subject, lightening the mood.
“Backhanded compliment, nice save.” She said with a wink. Anya forced her smile to widen a fraction and then looked down, as if the effort had cost her too much strength and she had to recuperate.
“Still, St. Petersburg is really far away.” Alicia added. For some reason, that made Anya smile, sincerely this time.
“What, are you going to miss me?” Anya teased.
Alicia made a face. “Pfff… Bitch, please! I’ve got better things to do with my time.”
Anya chuckled at her friend’s words. “We’re witches Ali. I can just hook up my fireplace to yours and we can see each other whenever we want.”
Alicia smiled sincerely for the first time that day and Anya mirrored.
“I heard you had company last night by the way.” Alicia threw in, vaguely enough to hook Anya up but not specific enough to risk getting it wrong.
Anya frowned and for a brief moment Alicia thought she saw alarm in her friend wide eyes.
“What do you mean?”
“I gotta admit, as far as stalkers go, Black is not so bad…”
Anya looked lost for a second, but then she rolled her eyes and snorted. “Yeah, I’ll try to remember that the next time he almost sets me on fire.” She said, voice so acidic that it might have punched a hole through iron.
Alicia let out a small chuckle, despite herself. “Look, I am the first to admit that Black is not exactly my favorite person on this planet, but you have got to let that one go. I mean, it’s universally accepted that that one was an accident.”
Anya raised an enquiring eyebrow at her friend. “Really? And that matters because…”
Alicia rolled her eyes, but didn't add anything more. Anya was able to coordinate her likes and dislikes without any help from anyone.
“I gotta go.” Anya said finally after a few more minutes.
“See you for lunch?” Alicia suggested. “I’ll bring takeouts from Cipriani’s.”
Alicia hesitated only for a moment. She hadn’t brought up the topic of ‘a place to stay’ on purpose, because she was very unsure on how Anya would take something like that. But she also knew that she couldn’t postpone it further than lunch. Anya usually stayed all day at the Academy, but in the end, she would need a place to sleep and it couldn’t be just anywhere.
Anya blew Alicia a kiss and then went inside the classroom to stand in line with the rest of the students. Even there, completely unmoving, she stood out. Maybe because even when she was exhausted, her concentration was as sharp as always.
Just then, as she wondered about Anya and the way she was so assured and unrelenting in her choice of life and career, Alicia realized that the time had come for her to make a choice as well. But this time, she wasn’t torn about her future anymore. For the first time, she knew exactly what she wanted - and it was liberating.
Now all she had to do was go get it.
Alicia had never used the visitor’s entrance of the Ministry of Magic before.
She knew it existed and approximately how it worked of course, but using it to get in seemed weird, since on those rare occasions she had actually stepped inside the Ministry, she had used her house’s fireplace that was connected to the Atrium.
Doing all the checks and controls was not a novelty, but for some reason it felt as if this took longer than it had other times.
Maybe because none of those time Alicia had actually been this nervous about it.
She was really going to do this… it seemed almost surreal, but she was really going to do this.
She was now standing in the Atrium and being escorted by a Ministry official to the second level: Magical Law Enforcement Offices. They went through corridors and offices, passing by the Auror Headquarters that was as busy as a bee-nest.
“Ok miss Mackenzie, this is the Registration desk for the Auror training program.” The skinny Ministry official said as he showed her into a cupboard-sized office with lots of shelves full of files, one desk and an intimidating-looking man behind it.
That man looked like he belonged behind that desk almost as much as a crystal vase might belong in a locker-room full of rugby players.
He was maybe around fifty-five and well built, even though sitting, Alicia could tell that he was tall. The width of his shoulders was impressive and the weather-worn skin made him look raw and somewhat callous for some reason. Immediately, Alicia though of well worn leather boots… which kinda freaked her out. The fact that he was dressed all in black gave him the distinctive impression of being the real-life version of an over-aged hitman.
His square jaw made him look like a bulldog, and those thick eyebrows over the small dark eyes added the impression of a very stubborn, very angry son of a bitch; with a little evil on the side, because that’s what his thin lips made him to be. The hair in a military buzz cut only added to the general freakish-ness and threatening aura.
The seriously out of place thing was that he was wearing a shirt and trousers – as in, muggle style…
“This gentleman is going to show you the paperwork you need to fill out for us and then we will get back at you with the date of the test-trial and interview.” He ministry official said. He must have introduced himself at some point, but Alicia had been too distraught to remember.
And using the word ‘gentleman’ when referring to that guy wasn’t stretching the definition of that word its breaking point; it was more like flipping it off while cursing at its sister.
Alicia wasn’t very impressed by the way the old lecher was shamelessly checking her out either, but she didn’t really give a flying fuck about that.
The over-eagerness of the Ministry official was starting to get on her nerves though. Alicia would have found him cute if she had though that he was trying to impress her with his manners and thorough knowledge of the building’s history, but that was not the case. He had snapped to attention the second he had heard her surname – something which people tended to do in the Ministry, seeing that both her parents were hot stuff around here.
Alicia had stopped caring about that a long, long time ago though.
“Ok, thank you.” Alicia said a bit dryly. The Ministry official gave a few more smiles and then gracelessly bowed out. Only then did Alicia turn to look at the man behind the desk, who was now appraising her with much more analytical eyes, as if now she was a problem to be solved.
The man didn’t make a move to present her with any paperwork. Alicia looked at him pointedly for a couple of second, then raised her eyebrow.
“Excuse me, I was under the impression that I was supposed to fill in a form.” She deadpanned.
“Ya are.” He said crassly.
Only now did Alicia notice that he was chewing a gum… probably because now he was doing so very indecently, with his mouth open. His voice was rocky, gravely around the edges as if he had just gotten out of bed… or had had a really rough night. Alicia waited for him to give her that fucking piece of paper, but the freak wasn’t bulging…
If this fucker thought that he was going to intimidate her with that steely gaze and hard-ass aura, he obviously had no idea who he was dealing with here.
She was the daughter of Eli and Violet Mackenzie: she had been raised by professional liars, people that lived on keeping their thoughts a secret. There was nothing Alicia could do if not keep a perfect poker face.
The motherfucker only kept staring at her, this time a smirk on his thin lips as if he knew exactly what she was packing underneath her clothes. His stare was lewd to the point of being offensive, so much that for a second Alicia wondered if he was doing it on purpose just to irritate her.
What the fu…
Alicia called back on every ounce of patience she had in her system.
“Are you going to hand me that paper or am I going to have to read your mind to figure out where it is and get it myself?” Alicia asked, using the kind of voice that she hoped would communicate a serious intent. The hitman’s sneer only got wider, but now it was condescending, as if even though he was sitting, he was looking at her down his nose.
“This aint a beauty contest registration missy. Getchya sweet ass auta ‘ere.”
Alicia narrowed her eyes at the man.
“Is this the place where I sign up for the Auror Training Program?” She asked, her voice icy.
“Yup.” The motherfucker popped the ‘P’ indecently, like he was sucking on a lollypop. And he had just relaxed on his chair and liked his hands behind his head.
Alicia slapped her thick file of paperwork on his desk: her grades from Hogwarts, OWLs, NEWTs and all the extra courses she had taken, letters of recommendations from teachers and people she had worked for during her internship here at the Ministry and the two she had done at St Mungos.
“That’s my credentials. Hand me that form that needs signing, I don’t have all day.” Alicia spoke with a carefully controlled tone, refusing to let this idiot’s crass manner get to her.
The man took a disinterest look at the papers and then leaned in, putting his elbows on the table and resting his chin on his linked hands.
“What’s a pretty wench like yourself doin in a shithole like this, huh?”
Alicia willed herself to stay focused. “Is that information in any way related to this phase of my registration in the program?” she spoke evenly, without giving away any of the anger that was boiling inside her. This wanker on a power trip was wasting her time and seriously damaging her calm.
“Nope.” He answered, grinning at her, showing all his yellow crooked teeth.
“Then that makes my motives none of your bloody business.” Alicia said, altogether calmly, looking at the main dead in the eye without batting an eyelash.
She didn’t need to control her anger now – it was gone, pushed back into a corner - because she had realized something: whoever this man was, whatever his deal was, the point was not how much anger he could draw out of her, but how much he could really distract her from her goal. There was no way in hell that Alicia would let him get to her enough to get in the way of her plan. She was going to put her name on that registration list today and there was no lewdness that this ignorant piece of shit could say that would get in the way of that.
The man’s smirk widened, something in his black eyes shining, as if he was amused.
“Uuu, Backbone Barbie.” He said with a chuckle.
Alicia rolled her eyes and took a deep breath.
“Ok mister, you look like a real asshole, so I’m gonna talk to you like I would to an asshole: There is no vulgar-ass comment or one liner you’ll throw at me that I haven’t heard before, so we might as well skip the foreplay.”
Alicia took one step closer giving the man behind the desk a stare so hard had it could have punched a hole through solid concrete.
Her voice remained just as even and impassive as before.
“Obviously I can’t force you to hand me that form, so here’s the deal: we can do this the easy way, or we can do this the fucking-annoying way. Just remember that the fucking-annoying one involves me coming around to your office from opening hours until you close up shop, with 20 leprechauns and a violin and having them sing your eardrums out until you hand me that fucking form.”
And after all that, the wanker had the gall to laugh at her. He serious threw his head back and laughed, like an injured bear.
“You gotta work on your intimidation skill, dollface. This far they aint worth shit.” He said with a wink. “Why don’t ya go ahead an’ apply for a nice office job. Wouldn’t wanna put a scar on that pretty face now, wouldya.”
Alicia scoffed, rolling her eyes. “Leprechauns it is then…”
She was about to turn on her heel and walk away… to the nearest place where she could find some leprechauns and a small band, when his gruff voice stopped her.
“That’s it? Goin’ to cry to your mommy and daddy?” he said with a laugh and Alicia knew that he was making fun of her. For just one moment, she saw red.
Alicia took two steps until she was practically touching the small excuse for a desk. He raised one eyebrow at her, as if challenging her to the next punch line.
But Alicia had had enough of the talking.
Fast and precise, she pulled back her hand… and punched that gum-flapping coksucker right on the mouth. The man flinched, grunted and drew his head back ,but it was way too late: she had busted his lip and that bit of blood on him was the greatest satisfaction Alicia had had today.
The surprise had widened his eyes, as he’d figured out what she had been about to do a second too late. He was still looking at her with astonishment, as Alicia stood her ground, hand ready at her wand, waiting for his next move.
But for a couple of seconds, the man did nothing but stare at her evenly. Then he smiled, and it was a disturbing distortion on his hard face, completely out of place with the arrangement of his features. His teeth were mattered in blood…
For the first time, he looked truly cruel.
“You actually punched me.” He said and the astonishment that had vanished from his face lingered in his tone.
“Not too bad either.” He said appreciatively as he tested his lip with his tongue and then spit the blood on the floor, making Alicia’s skin crawl.
“You’ve hit people before.” It was not a question, but an observation. His tone was business-like, clipped and to the point.
“I’m a black belt.” Alicia said evenly. His only response was an indecipherable ‘hmm’, as he crossed his arms over his chest. He wouldn’t take his eyes off her and this time she didn’t feel like he was checking her out. More like he was calculating her, like a doctor would. Alicia didn’t move a muscle on her face.
The mood in the tiny room had changed drastically and she had a feeling that his would be the deciding moment.
“The form ya want is the pile o’ yellow paper o’er there.” He said nodding to his right. “Fill it in, put it with the rest of your shit and get the fuck outa my office.”
Alicia took the form and filled it out, the whole time paying attention to the man behind the small desk. He was watching her like a hawk and Alicia didn’t trust him not to attack her when he though she wasn’t paying attention.
She put the form on top of the rest of her paperwork and didn’t wait to be dismissed again.
“I underestimated you Barbie, and you took me by surprise. That won’t be happenin’ again.” The man said when Alicia was right on the doorstep of his office. She turned to look at him and saw that the same cruel smile was curving his thin lips. His words sounded more like a warning than a simple statement.
Under her scrutiny, his smirk got wider and once again, he put his hands behind his head and swung on the back legs of his chair, looking completely relaxed even though his eyes were sharp like a hawk’s. This time he even brought his feet on the table. The little thing creaked under the massive weight of his heavy black combat boots.
“I’ll be seeing you, sweet-cheeks!”
Alicia said nothing. She turned away and walked down the hall, a smile making its way on her lips. She wasn’t sure of course, but she had a feeling that she was going to be accepted at the Auror Training Program.
Ok then. She’d accomplished her main goal for the day. Now came the hardest part:
Telling her mother…
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